Friday, January 25, 2008

Only Tax Cuts Work in the Long Run

I was asked several times this past week about the presidential candidates and their plans to revive the economy. How the candidates would get us out of recession is largely irrelevant. After all, whoever wins the election will not actually enter the White House until a year from now. Hopefully, the recession will be over by then.

I know that not everyone believes we are actually in a recession, but whether we are or aren't is also largely irrelevant. The fact is that economic growth has slowed tremendously and some regions of the country are experiencing contraction. In any case, the situation is dire enough that something must be done to revive the economy.

I explained on MSNBC and on the Leon Charney Report, which airs in the New York City area, that an economic recession is a bit like a patient who is having a heart attack. First the doctor treats the heart attack--usually with surgery and medication--then once the patient has been stabilized, the doctor addresses the long-term health issues. He might prescribe a change in diet and an exercise program. The goal is to make the patient healthier in order to reduce the odds that he will suffer another heart attack in the future.

From what I've been hearing so far, the Democrats' proposals address the heart attack. They are looking for ways to immediately revive the economy. But they are ignoring the long-term health issues. I'm not seeing anything on their table that would keep the economy healthy over the long term and reduce the odds of another recession.

The Republican candidates, on the other hand, are focused on the long term. They all want to reduce tax rates on individuals and corporations. Mike Huckabee is even proposing to eliminate the income tax entirely and replace it with a national sales tax. Lower taxes will certainly go a long way to ensure the long-term health of the economy, but they don't do much to address the immediate problem.

Yesterday, government officials announced agreement on a $150 billion economic stimulus package. They plan to mail checks to about 117 million families. They even proposed allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to temporarily purchase mortgages well above the current $417,000 limit. These proposals are well and good, but they merely treat the heart attack. They don't do anything to ensure the economy's long-term health. Hopefully, the Senate will add such measures before a final bill reaches the president's desk.